By now, we all know that social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools – especially for businesses that have large-scale and active communities. It shouldn't come as so much of a surprise then, to see that small businesses, including start-ups, can enjoy even greater benefits than their large-scale siblings.
Just by investing the time in social media, or engaging a team of professional social media managers, you can really work to improve your audience's overall awareness of your business, give your chance the opportunity to evolve into the unique creature that it needs to be and build your own loyal customer base which may, or may not, revolve around your ideal target audience.
How Can Social Media Genuinely Benefit Small Businesses?
There are a variety of ways that social media can dynamically benefit a business; here are seven of the most popular!
Customer-Focused – Like all other forms of marketing, it can be focused on the ideal customer for your business. However, in the past content marketing hasn't been as useful as it is today, simply because it hasn't had the same capacity to be as personalised, or as readily available, as social media can be.
You can upload a post, or link to an article, in a matter of moments and in a few seconds you can already have interested customers, potential customers and other members of your community engage with you.
Effectively Convey Your Brand Identity – By injecting your brand with personality, you can humanise your brand and, as you continue to create content and publicise content, you will develop a unique and distinct brand identity which will attract more and more people, thereby growing your community.
One great example of a brand identity is the foul-mouthed, deliberately offensive Twitter account Nihilist Arby's, which is definitely an extreme example of how a unique personality can attract a major following, just by finding a distinct and memorable (and occasionally hilarious) brand identity.
Customer Service! – Unhappy customers who engage with your company via social media can be instantly contacted and reassured. Engaging with your customers in such a direct manner can really add value to your relationship and work to develop a lasting and healthy customer relationship.
Almost as importantly, thanks to the visibility of social media site like Twitter and Facebook, you can be seen taking the time to solve your customer's problems, which can really reassure them if they are at all hesitant about spending their money with your company.
Improve Online Visibility – Social media use is one the rise and now every business has (or should have) a social media presence. However, many of these businesses (your competitors) won't know how to use social media to their advantage, which can leave the playing field wide open for you to come in and immediately establish yourself as a dominant force.
Most industries will already have strong contenders on social media, but it is important to make sure that you don't just end up copying their identities to try and appeal to the massive online audience.
Promote Your Business For A Low Cost – By almost every measurable metric, social media can provide a major return on investment over other forms of marketing. In fact, way back in 2013, a study performed by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) into a variety of major UK brands, including Heinz, Kettle and Twinings, discovered that for every £1 spent on social media marketing, approximately £3.34 can be reaped as the rewards.
Customer Sharing – By operating your own social media platform and working to create or link to content via your social media, it can be easier than ever to give your customers the tools to, essentially, advertise on your behalf. Customers can easily retweet, repost or utilise other methods of sharing your content within their own connections. This, in turn will give you a much greater range of coverage and drastically increase your overall business visibility.
- Another Avenue Of Engagement – Social media actually has the potential to benefit smaller business much more than larger businesses. SMEs are uniquely positioned to engage with their customers on a local or even level in a way that larger companies just can't do. This can also have lasting effects in the long run, as your followers will feel responsible and proud to have been a part of your community when your business does manage to grow into an industry leader.
How Is SME Social Media Different From A Big Business'?
A recent report, undertaken by Social Media Examiner, discovered that as much as 92% of marketers working with small businesses (characterised as having between two and ten employees) either agree or strongly agree that social media is absolutely essential to their marketing efforts. Of course, that immediately makes us ask; “Who are the other 8% of marketers who don't agree, and is there any possible way that we can get them blacklisted from calling themselves marketers?"
Within two years, more than half of all smaller businesses, including start-ups, agree that social media helps them to increase their sales. Move on to within the space of five years, and more than 70% of SMEs see a return-on-investment from their social media presence.
Small businesses don't necessarily have the time, money or stamina to focus on the marketing strategies of the past; print advertising, radio advertising, television marketing and more. What they can do, however, is focus on expanding awareness around their brand, increasing the members within their loyal community and working on their website.
Making The Most From Your Small Business Social Media!
Brand awareness social media posts can actually be thought of as “digital flyers", or even the online equivalent of newspaper advertisements. They can effectively build brand recognition and help your SME start to develop a distinct brand identity. It's worth remembering that every piece of content that you share is useful, even if it doesn't appear so at the time.
Experts in social media marketing understand that there are five of the major metrics that you need to be keeping tabs on when it comes to your social media are:
Post Impressions And Reach – An impression is a view of your post, or how many times your post appeared in front of your audience. Reach dynamically measures how many people saw your post. It is worth pointing out that these two are different because your post can be viewed multiple times by the same person.
Follower Growth – This is a hugely important metric to keep an eye on, and it is the actual representation of the size of your community. If you notice that one particular type of post, promotion or strategy drastically increases this number, then be sure to repeat that kind of message a few times to really attract the right audience.
Mentions – Keeping an eye on how often your business is mentioned over social media is important, as you can start to understand how important your business is in the lives of your community and who is actually talking about you.
Sentiments – Now, it may not be the most technically brilliant way of keeping an eye on your customer's opinions of your brand, but try searching for your business' name, followed by emotive words like “love", “sucks", “best", “bad" or even “fail".
Location – Try to keep an eye on where your followers are coming from, as they can let you know where your audience is and could open your eyes to potential opportunities, whether they are for expansion or other forms of marketing.
Build A Community Around Your Business
Taking the time out to build a community around your brand is definitely worth it, as your followers can effectively become brand ambassadors and potential repeat customers. Asking your customers to fill out surveys and answer questions can be beneficial to your business in the long run, particularly as it can show them that you really do care about their opinions.
Even just setting up a dedicated email address, linked to your social media, to ensure that you get specific alerts relating to your social media profile can really make a difference in the development of your business' social media culture. Encouraging your customers to reach out via social media can be a great decision as well, especially if you are more likely to answer them with satisfactory answers, as that can actually act as advertising on your business' behalf.
A major piece of advice that some businesses don't want to hear when they undertake social media training in London is that they should, realistically, leave the big companies alone.
Rather than compete with industry professionals who have more time, more money and an already massive following, keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. If you put the time in, then you can start to worry about the bigger companies, but that will only be because you will, essentially, be one of them as well!